Anthropology/Women's Studies 316
Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Course Instructor:

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Text and Resources:

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The WSU Online-produced Videos:

Ideally I would say that you should watch the videos AFTER you have done the assigned reading. This should make the video lectures substantially more interesting to you. On the other hand, I have had some students tell me that their reading is more meaningful and less confusing if they have seen the relevant video lecture first. You will have to be the judge of which style works best for you.

It might be nice if each video corresponded to an EXACT number of pages in the book (or the study guide). I have seen courses organized that way, but I?m afraid I?m not quite so tidy. Just relax. By the time you have to write an exam you will have seen all the lectures on the relevant book and had time to read all the chapters.

The Books:

The books assigned in this course were chosen for several reasons: they offer a range of style and perspective; they reflect gender roles and relations in four very different locations; they discuss cultural systems at different levels of social and technological complexity; and each book has a focus on gender that is quite different from the others.

I have discovered that students often approach unread books with a definite feeling about whether or not they are going to like them, so I have a piece of advice: give each one a chance. Many women students who shudder at the thought of Islamic veiling and seclusion have put off reading Guests of the Sheik because they were sure they were going to hate it. But they didn?t. Students who thought hunting and gathering peoples were intellectually and emotionally ?primitive? have resisted Nisa, only to find out that the Kung reflect the same intellectual and emotional range Americans do. Eventually most students find the reading definitely enjoyable. So try not to expect anything except a pretty exciting introduction to the lives of people who are paradoxically both exactly the same as we are and also incredibly different.

Even though the assigned books are engaging and compelling (or maybe because they are), you have to beware of slurping them down like novels. There has to be some way of remembering what you have read, and getting back to it once it is time to write your essay. Many people are true believers in the yellow or pink highlighter, but in my view that is merely a snare and a delusion. You feel as though you have done something useful when you underline, but have you really done anything about fixing the material in your mind or organizing it so that you can find it again later?

My suggestion, based on my experience as both a good and a very bad student is that you should take notes. True, it is much more time consuming than highlighting or underlining, but it works. Not only does note taking provide you with a handy and brief record of the most important points and examples in your readings for future reference, but, almost more important, the process itself sets the material in your head. It is much more available to your memory than if you had merely underlined. Learning to take notes is especially helpful for a book such as Death Without Weeping which is very long, but also very wonderful. There is a lot of reading, but you can do it, especially if you read strategically, paying closest attention and taking the most detailed notes where the material is most specifically related to the issues (discussed in the course guide) that I have indicated will form the basis of your take-home exam.

What I do is to put a page number in the left-hand margin whenever I come across a point I want to be sure to remember, and then follow it with a brief quote or a short paraphrase. Thus, instead of having to trek through 400 pages of Nisa when I want to find a particular reference, I have to look through only 17 pages of notes. If you follow this procedure, not only with readings in this class, but with all your academic readings, I really believe that you will have acquired a habit that will be of enormous value to you in any class you take.


Course Overview

There are four things you have to do as a member of this class:

  • Watch the course video lectures.
  • Read the four assigned books and one article.
  • Keep a course journal
  • Write four essay exams

Course Work

The Journals:

When I began to teach through WSU Online I was very much afraid that I would have no contact with my students: no idea what they were getting out of their readings and lectures, and no way they could ask questions or I could respond. So, in desperation, I ripped off a technique that many people use in English departments, but that I had never before tried: the journal. And it has worked very well, both for my students and for me.

The idea is this: as you do your reading and watch your videos and go about your daily life, you reflect on issues that are relevant to the material we are dealing with in class. Maybe an article in the newspaper deals with arranged marriage in a U.S. immigrant community, or maybe you thought a point your instructor (that?s me!) made in a video seemed reasonable when you first heard it, but upon further reflection it doesn?t seem sensible at all. So you put this stuff in your journal. It is supposed to be the place you wrestle with the new ideas you are developing as they crash into the thoughts and experiences you have been living with for years. The journal is not the place for raw notes on your readings or videos. It is the place for intellectual questioning and reflection. Very often, it seems to me, we THINK we know what we think, but until we put it down on paper or discuss it seriously, we are unaware of the complexity or implications of our views. I don?t grade journal entries, though I do comment on what you say and ask. If you take the task seriously (and virtually all students do), and do all your journals, you get full credit. Submit your journal entries in the Assignments link at the left of your screen.

When I began teaching this course via WSU Online, I had a fairly small number of students, and they sent me journals every week. Then came the semester I had 67 students, and I cut back to one journal every two weeks. Now the course approaches 150 students many semesters, and the journals threaten to bury me. But I still think they?re a good idea, and I still read them myself, though a teaching assistant grades the essay exams. In order to make it possible for me to read the journals, I have reduced their numbers even further. Perhaps this (which was inspired by purely selfish motives) makes the journal assignment more realistic for students, too.

Each student should write five journal entries. The first should be an introduction to yourself, your experiences, and what you hope to get from the course. Each of the subsequent journal entries should be submitted during the second or third week of each assigned book; deadlines are included in the Course Schedules (located on the left of the screen). You will not be given a grade for the journals, but if you do them all, it will raise your total score by a third of a grade (from a B to a B+, for example). If you fail to complete them all, your total score will be lowered by a third of a grade (from a C to a C?, for example). Because I read many hundreds of journal entries every semester, it is important to observe two restrictions: (1) please type your journal entries, and (2) please restrict them to between two and three double-spaced pages apiece.

NB (that stands for the Latin expression ?Nota Bene,? ?note well,? or ?pay attention,? an abbreviation I loved to use when I was an insufferable high school student): These journal instructions supersede all others. In the video lectures you may see a somewhat younger me referring to other journal instructions. Ignore them; they are from the old days when this course had smaller enrollments, and I could read more journals.

Essay Exams:

After you have read each book, you will be required to write an essay exam based on a series of questions that will be posted online at the appropriate time (see the Course Schedule on the left of the screen).

Normally you will have about a week to work on your essay; submit it by the end of the week indicated in the Course Schedule. Sometimes students wonder why they can?t have the questions at the beginning of each new section, rather than at the end. The reason is not mere sadism on my part. Rather, if students have the questions when they begin a book, there is a tendency to read only for information that will answer the questions, rather than to consider the whole book. Ideally, we would meet every week or so, one on one, and talk about what you have read; that?s the way education should operate. But we all know it seldom does, so I can ask you questions about only selected topics from your readings (the essay questions). Still, I?m not willing to let go entirely of the material I can?t ask you about, and that?s why I don?t hand out the questions early: I want you to consider all of it.

I have given this kind of take-home exam for many years, even to my on-campus classes, where such exams are not common. I like them for a number of reasons. First, they eliminate the fear factor: students don?t have to worry about what the instructor is going to ask. Second, they eliminate time pressure, which is helpful for students who are not comfortable with the writing process. Third, they allow the instructor to ask more complex and interesting questions, which permits students to supply more thoughtful and meaningful responses. As I see it, an exam should be the stimulus that drives students to find increased significance in the material for which they are responsible, and that pushes them to discover new ways of structuring and understanding the relationships among its constituent elements. You should know more after you have written your exam than you did just before you wrote it.

In my video lecture, I spend some time telling you how to write an exam, but I think it worthwhile to go over here some of what I said there. The two most important things to remember are (1) that you cannot make a general statement without specific evidence to back it up, and (2) that strings of specific evidence without analytic interpretation are meaningless. So remember that when you make a statement like ?I think the Kung marriage system reinforces women?s lower status,? you will need to provide specific, detailed evidence for that opinion, with the page numbers on which you find the evidence. And, of course, you will need to make sure that you don?t overlook evidence that might weaken or refute your position.

At first it may seem that this kind of structure is stifling; you may long for more freedom. But eventually I think you will agree with my old Latin teacher?s contention that it ?keeps you honest??intellectually honest, that is. (I was a virtuoso Latin student, and I thought I was pretty hot stuff. So when Mrs. Calhoon gave me that little lecture about intellectual honesty, I always wanted to punch her out. Now, of course, I see her point. Oscar Wilde was right: youth is wasted on the young.) At any rate, remember that opinions are worthless and irresponsible if they are not backed up by evidence, and lists of specifics without any general statements to organize them and give them significance have no value at all.

Writing per se is not an issue in the grading of essays, unless your writing is so incoherent that it is difficult to figure out what you are trying to say. Do your best with spelling and punctuation. If you have a spellcheck on your computer, use it. If you don?t, ask someone whose literacy you trust to read over your paper for you. I don?t consider that cheating; I consider it common sense.

There is no fixed number of pages for these essays, but I doubt that you can do a reasonable job in fewer than three pages, and most students seem to be able to get the job done in about five. That?s just a general suggestion; I?ll be happy to read all the pages you write. Unless you are in an emergency situation, essays must be typed, but, as always, they can have handwritten corrections, and they don?t need to be pretty.

Submitting your essays on time is fairly important. I can understand if real life intervenes on your way to the mailbox, but try hard to keep to the schedule in the outline. Each of the essays is worth l00 points.

Submitting Journal Entries and Essay Exams:

Follow the directions provided for submitting course work in the corresponding pages of the Lessons (located on the left of the screen).

Keep copies of all work submitted. Keep all copies and graded/returned work until a grade has been posted for the course.


Late Work Policy

Your instructor has the latest information about a late work policy.


Instructor Interaction

Your instructor has the latest information about interaction and feedback


Grading

Course Work Points Percent of Final Grade
Essay Exam 1 100 25%
Essay Exam 2 100 25%
Essay Exam 3 100 25%
Essay Exam 4 100 25%
TOTAL 400 100%

Grade Points Percent of Final Grade Grade Points Percent of Final Grade
A 372?400 93?100% C 292?307 73?76%
A? 360?371 90?92% C? 280?291 70?72%
B+ 348?359 87?89% D+ 260?279 65?69%
B 332?347 83?86% D 244?259 61?64%
B? 320?331 80?82% F 243 & Below < 61%
C+ 308?319 77?79%      

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